Wine Wednesday – Wine Tasting 101

{Top two contenders for this evening}

While I LOVE wine, I’m not completely versed on how to conduct a formal tasting with guests or even on my own.  I wouldn’t consider myself a novice, but I’m certainly not an expert either.  It’s not that I have a hard time detecting whether or not I like a specific wine, but defining my opinion using the proper terminology is definitely a challenge for me that I’m always eager to practice and overcome (wink, wink).  Is it buttery?  Oaky?  Too acidic?  Is there a hint of barnyard or apricot?  Having been a self proclaimed Franzia expert in college (I can’t believe I’m admitting that), graduating to the adult world of real wine has been a joy in my life.  While wine tasting can be intimidating at times, finally reaching the point at which you can detect the presence of a specific fruit or chocolate on the nose is a thrilling experience.  That being said, it’s been a while since I’ve done a Wine Wednesday post and when I saw Megan’s “Wine Tasting 101” post from last week on the Hope at Home blog, I knew I had to share it with another audience.  I was thrilled when she gave me permission to repost her tips and she is my first ever official guest blogger – YAY!

PS: For those of you unfamiliar with Hope at Home, it is the at home wine tasting program of ONEHOPE Wine.  They seek to bring the joyous wine tasting experience to your home, work, bridal shower, charity fundraiser… you name it.  While 50% of the profits from ONEHOPE Wine always benefit partner charities, with a Hope at Home event an additional 10% can go to the charity or fundraiser of your choice.  Now THAT is a cool idea for your next 1/2 marathon or blogger meetup :-)  Currently the program is exclusive to California, but check in for updates.

And here we go…!

“We obviously LOVE wine. We’re around it a lot and it’s a big part of what we do on a daily basis. We also know that wine can come off intimidating at times. Don’t let the average wine snob fool you with their opinions. What really matters is taste. If you like what you’re tasting, keep enjoying it! Drinking wine is meant to be fun, not stuffy! The way we conduct our Hope at Home tastings are casual, but still informative. We aren’t experts by any means, but we are familiar with the basics. So in honor of our favorite day of the week, Wine Wednesday, we wanted to share a few tips for your next ONEHOPE Wine tasting party.

Pour: Use a simple glass to evaluate the wine. Because you want as little distraction from the wine as possible, try to stay away from elaborate cut-crystal or opaque glasses. Give yourself about a 2 ounce pour (¼ cup) into a stemmed glass so there’s room to swirl.

Look: Take a look at what you’re about to taste. The appearance and color will tell you a lot about a wine. Intense, deep color―particularly in a red wine―indicates how full-bodied it will taste. Although sediment is possible in older bottles, wine should be clear and free of cloudiness.

Smell: We’re getting closer to the good part! Give your glass a swirl to release the aroma, then put your nose just inside the glass and inhale. If you aren’t detecting anything, cover the glass with your hand, swirl, uncover, and immediately inhale. Try to detect the wine’s characteristics. Is it fruity? Earthy? Floral? Spicy? After you narrow it down, it will be easier to further refine your description. For example, if you are getting fruit on the nose, do you detect citrus, berries, or tropical fruits?

Taste: Finally… our favorite part, the tasting! You’ve probably come across some tasters that suck in a little air with the wine, then slosh it around in their mouths. Well this may look and feel a little funny. Just remember to breathe in and out when you are sipping to help aerate the wine and enhance the flavor. While tasting, consider body and texture, sweetness or bitterness, acidity, tannins, and the overall balance. Lastly, be sure to focus on the wine’s “finish”―how long its essence lingers on your palate after swallowing.

All tips aside, just have fun and enjoy yourself. That’s what wine is for anyways, right? Cheers!”

– Megan Brandt
Hope at Home – Social Media Manager

Just a few additional tips that I wanted to add… First and foremost, wine is always better with food!  Meats, cheeses, olives… don’t be afraid to get creative and explore different options with different wines.  Hope at Home partnered with Cupcakes Couture in Manhattan Beach for cupcake and wine pairings that were TO. DIE. FOR.  If you’re hosting a wine party and want to get creative like this, just make sure to check to see what flavors compliment the wines you’ve selected as sweet treats tend to lend different flavors when paired with wine.  A little lesson we learned with the cupcakes – stay away from cream cheese frostings, but have a ton of fun playing around with chocolates, berries and citrus.

Additionally, I decided to take my wine education to the next level and just ordered this book, written by Kevin Zraly.  Kevin started the Wine School at Windows on the World (the restaurant atop 1 World Trade Center) in 1976.  The program was an overnight sensation and has gone uninterrupted through both the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the ultimate demise of the Trade Centers on September 11, 2001.  To date over 17,000 people have graduated from the program.  His story alone gives me the chills, but his book is the most famous wine tasting guide in the world and comes very highly recommended.  I can’t wait to start reading (and tasting!)… after finals ;-)

{Last four photos by Torino Creative}

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